Researching Online Reptile Sellers
The best and only fool-proof way to avoid being scammed is to buy from those with known reputation.
This is especially true if you are new to the hobby because you are the most easily deceived.
When buying from unknown individuals or businesses, you may encounter a range of problems from bad service to inaccurately labeled product. But the worst possible scenario is a miscreant who lures you into sending money for an animal that does not even exist.
Of course, most less known breeders are honest people, but you are taking some risk.
Here are some tips to researching a seller and determining their reputation. There is no single rule and these factors should be considered all together.
- How long ago did they join MorphMarket according to their Store Page? They could be new to our site, but that means there has been less time for others to report suspicious activity.
- How are their MorphMarket Ratings? Visit the store's page on our site and follow the link to see their ratings.
- How many positive versus negative experiences have been recorded?
- How do they score in the detailed ratings categories?
- What kind of feedback have buyers left?
- Is their store page linked to a website? Social media pages? How developed are these sites and how many followers do they have? Do they have marketing materials like a logo? Pictures of their facility is another bonus.
- What do you find people saying when you search for them on forums and social media? Does the web even validate their existence as a breeder? Some good places to check:
- Conduct a general Google Search with the breeder individual or company name.
- Visit their Facebook page if they have one and check reviews there.
- Visit Herpetoculture Feedback and Inquiry Group group on Facebook. Use the "Search this group" function, or ask about a seller.
- How do their store description and policies read? How do they handle Dead On Arrival and other unpleasant situations?
- Can they give you references to customers or other breeders you know? Who will vouch for them?
- Is the price too good to be true? A reasonable price doesn't mean it's legitimate, but an unreasonably good price should raise suspicion. Besides that, remember the saying, "You get what you pay for." Part of what you are purchasing is customer service, so choose accordingly.
- Can they provide additional photos of the animal in a different situation than the ad photo? Make sure it's the exact same animal by looking for specific patterns. Request a picture of the reptile from the same angle, sitting on top of their business card or a piece of paper with your name on it. This should be the very last step before you purchase though, because sellers don't have time to take extra pictures for tire-kickers.
- While this technique is very effective, it may be unnecessary and some legitimate sellers may not accommodate you. At that point it's up to you whether the other evidence of their reputation is strong enough to cover your concerns.
- Look at their other ads too. Is there anything that doesn't make sense? Scammers often don't know the hobby very well and may make mistakes that are obvious to experienced enthusiasts.
- How do they expect payment?
- When using PayPal, is their account Verified? Do they request PayPal "Friends and Family"? Know that this will void your Buyer Protection. If necessary, it's worth you paying the extra 3% to send money via "Goods and Services".
- Only accepting money orders could be a red flag because it provides you no protection.
- Have a phone conversation with them. Ask them a couple of questions about the animals they are selling to test their knowledge.
- Are they creating pressure or urgency to buy? Trying to make you act quickly? Trying to make you feel guilty for asking questions? These are signs to walk away.
Genuine scammers are rare, and we usually catch and remove them quickly on MorphMarket. However we do not want to see anyone get ripped off. We have no ability to get your money back and the authorities are rarely willing or able to act on this kind of fraud, so it is up the buyer to do their own research, use common sense, and trust their gut. Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know until you have reason to be comfortable and confident in doing so.